Nobody said being popular was easy

It’s only been a few weeks since Facebook launched its controversial Facebook Places system, which allows users to keep their friends up to date on where they are at any given moment. While many critics have been less-than-kind to the system because of the implied privacy issues, it’s certainly proven popular enough to become a mainstay on the social network. Not surprisingly, someone’s already trying to capitalize on this popularity by creating a game using the technology.

The idea behind InCrowd is that a person checks into locations using Facebook Places, and by doing so, the user accumulates popularity points and interacts with other people who have checked into the same place.

When you first run InCrowd, you have to login to Facebook and create an avatar. This is actually pretty cool, because you can easily personalize your avatar in a wide variety of ways that all look pretty great. Once you’ve done this, the app will scan nearby locations and come up with a list of businesses that you can check into in order to start earning popularity. It should be noted that this technology isn’t exactly perfect, since some businesses I tried to check into wouldn’t show up. However this seemed to be a Facebook issue, since I couldn’t find them when I double-checked with Facebook Places itself either.

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Popularity allows you to unlock new ways to personalize your avatar. Checking into a place requires a small expenditure of energy, a point of which regenerates every three minutes. If you happen to be the first person to check into a location, you earn a few popularity points and don’t expend any energy to do so. Meanwhile, if there’s another person in the area, they’ll show up on your iPhone’s screen and you can socialize with them, granting them extra popularity at the expense of your own energy.

Because you’ll deplete your avatar’s energy within a couple of fist bumps or high fives, Booyah provides users with the option to buy more energy at $0.99 a pop. At the moment, though, there isn’t really much of a reason to buy extra energy since there aren’t a whole lot of people to interact with.

The biggest problem with InCrowd‘s is in what a lonely experience it currently is. In the past week I’ve traveled from Flagstaff to Phoenix to Oakland and back again; I checked into more than twenty locations during my travels, and the only time I encountered another user was when I checked into Skyharbor International Airport. Despite screenshots in iTunes of dozens of users interacting with each other, the only sight I ever really saw was my dapperly-dressed avatar standing by himself.

If you’re one of those people who really wants to broadcast your every move with Facebook Places, then I could easily see this being a title for you. It’s cute, and it adds a mild gameplay element that’s sorta fun to play with. If more people start using it, InCrowd could become a highly enjoyable little pastime.